The State I am In.
The serious cocktailist should take inspiration wherever it is to be found. A while a go I was listening to a track by Belle and Sebastian and took the line “When she saw the funny side, we introduced my child bride to whisky and gin*” as something of a challenge. Could whisky and gin co-exist in the same drink? Sounds crazy. Game on. Belle and Sebastian are a Scottish band named after a French novel so, to me, there had to be a mixture of Scottish and French ingredients. Our bases of whisky and gin are hardly a difficult task as the Highlands and Islands are replete with superb options in both (I went island for each of them) and fortuitously the French produce a vast and varied pantry of both bitter and sweet liqueurs that we can work with. First let’s deal with the base**.
As we’ve discussed split bases are an interesting and (mostly) recent development in cocktailia but surely whisky and gin is taking it a step to far? Well, I can report that if you are extremely careful with the balance they can complement each other quite well. The trick is not to let one overpower the other and that means the proportions should be adjusted for each gin/whisky combination. For example, if you have an aversion to smoky whisky and used a mild unpeated malt instead I would start with an ounce of each and fine tune from there.
As for our modifier and accent components we’ll take the gentian bitterness of Suze and the floral sweetness of St Germain which dance rather well together. We’re close now but not quite there. We might normally turn to bitters to bring it all together but the French and Scottish are not big bitters producers (OK, they’re not bitters producers at all). Yep, you’re right. A few drops of absinthe is in order here – if it was good enough for Don The Beachcomber it’s certainly good enough for us numpties. That it ties in with the original novel’s French Alpine setting does no harm either.
There’s no doubt that The State is an unusual drink with its slightly oily mouth-feel and subtle if slightly peculiar flavour combinations. Let’s just say it’s one for the more adventurous cocktail fan rather than the casual drinker. To me it’s at its best served very cold and if you make sure that the mixing glass and drinking glass are well chilled and stir for a little longer than usual you should be able to get it down to a bracing -3°C or under. Don’t neglect the garnish on this one as a little lift from the lemon oil makes a significant difference. Get the most out of it by twisting over the glass and rubbing the peel around the rim. If you’re feeling sinister spray a little absinthe over the finished drink.
The State I am In.
1.5oz / 45ml Blackwood’s gin (or another quality Scottish gin).
0.5oz / 15ml Peated Scotch malt whisky (I used Finlaggan).
0.5oz / 15ml Suze.
0.5oz /15 ml St Germain elderflower liqueur.
6-8 drops of absinthe (J’adore Grande Absente 69).
Stir well in a well chilled mixing glass and strain into a well chilled Nick & Nora glass (you want this one cold and crispy with a fair amount of dilution).
Garnish with a twist of lemon peel. Optionally, spray some absinthe over the finished drink.
Toast Belle and Sebastian.
*Not recommended behaviour.
**How low can you go?
Death row? What a brother know
Once again, back is the incredible rhyme animal
The uncannable D, Public Enemy Number One
Five-O said, “Freeze!”—and I got numb
Can I tell ’em that I really never had a gun?